The oldest dated woodcarvings go back to the years 506 and 915 AD. Many well-preserved works, mostly made of oak, date from the early and late Gothic periods and still adorn cathedrals, minsters and churches today. Accordingly, they are characterised by religious motifs. With the Renaissance, movable household goods began to increase, and rooms were furnished with richly carved panelling. Little by little, furniture, building ornaments as well as figures and sculptures made of wood were created.
During the Baroque and Rococo periods, wood sculpture experienced its greatest development and can be traced throughout the Alpine region. It has helped to shape the various international trends and can be seen today in a wide variety of facets.
Woodcarving is particularly rooted in the Bernese Oberland. This is clearly visible on houses, in living rooms and on everyday objects. Often these were created by herdsmen and shepherds. It took decades for the farmers of the Oberland to make the transition from carving for their own use and diversion to carving as an artistic craft.
As the centre of woodcarving, Brienz also took on its responsibility, the discussion surrounding the striving for quality, which was constantly called into question by the routine and cheap mass production of the widespread souvenir industry. This area of tension threatened the further high-quality development of the trade, which depended on talented and innovative craftsmen and artists.
Of central importance was the founding of the Woodcarving School in 1884, today the only school for wood sculpture in Switzerland. As an artistic centre, it not only teaches future woodcarvers the fundamentals of craftsmanship and art, but also plays an important role in the communication and further development of national and international trends in arts and crafts. The school’s leading masters were and are significantly involved in the stylistic development of Swiss arts and crafts.